Hickman sophomore doesn't act his age

Friday, September 5, 2008 | 2:53 a.m. CDT; updated 11:09 a.m. CDT, Friday, September 5, 2008
Hickman sophomore Spenser Washington lined up at seven different positions in the Kewpies' season opening loss to Liberty.

COLUMBIA - Spenser Washington lined up at seven different positions last Friday night for Hickman's football team.

In high school football, talented players can often be seen in roles on offense, defense and special teams, but Washington is a little different. He's not a senior nor a three-year varsity starter. Washington is just a sophomore.


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After seeing time on special teams last season as a freshman, he has developed into an all-purpose weapon this offseason whom offensive coordinator Eric Thomas can be extremely creative with.

"It's a credit to him," head coach Jason Wright said of Washington. "Coach Thomas has the utmost confidence in him to put him in those positions."

Wright says there is a difference between age and football age. While Washington, 15, may not be able to drive home from practice yet, he plays the game like someone with far more experience.

"He's a kid that although he's a sophomore in age, he's a senior in the way he plays the game," Wright said. "Some guys are football savvy and some guys aren't. Washington is a football-savvy kid."

That savvy started only five years ago at age 10 when Washington decided to move on from soccer and give football a try.

"Soccer got boring, so I wanted to play football to see what it was like," he said. "I liked the hitting, I like the contact. You've just got more freedom."

Washington has lived in Columbia all his life, and while playing youth football in recent years, he's always had his sights on Friday nights.

"It's fun," he said. "Seeing the crowd cheering and thinking that two years ago, I was wishing I was on that field, and now I'm out there playing."

Washington isn't the only one enjoying football and where it has taken him. In the Washington household, football is a family affair.

"My mom loves to watch football and my dad used to play football back in the day, so he always wanted me to play football," he said.

It's easy to enjoy watching your son when he's as capable as Washington. On offense, he is undoubtedly the Kewpies' top option at running back after senior Gary Smith had surgery to repair an injured right hand and wrist, but Washington also lines up at quarterback and wide receiver.

On defense, coach Wright thinks Washington has the capability of becoming a special cornerback.

"We feel as though he's got the capability of being a shutdown corner," Wright said. "He's not there where he needs to be in terms of eyes or technique, but he competes and plays the ball in the air as well as anybody."

When asked if the load ever gets too heavy or the mental aspect too straining, Washington's answer is simple and to the point.

"They wouldn't have given it to me if they didn't think I could handle it," he said.

It's easy to forget Washington still has three years remaining before he will leave high school. He is calm, mature and understands being a part of a team and what is expected of him.

"Each of us make each other better," Washington said of his teammates. "If one of us does something wrong, we just try to pick each other up and help each other out."

There are moments, however, where his youth is apparent.

When asked what he wants to do after high school, there is a merely a shrug. When talking about what he likes to do for fun, there is surprise at why anyone would be interested. His tone suggests he thinks of himself as just another 15-year-old who does what any other teenager would do.

Wright will tell you, however, that Washington is far from any other teenager.

"He's pretty special to this team," Wright said. "He's a kickoff returner, he holds (on kicks) and he takes direct snaps. I mean, a kid that's 15 years old, I think that's a testament to his character and his athletic ability."

Most coaches are only planning for the worst when imagining what life would be like without one of their stars, but after Washington sprained an ankle last Friday against Liberty, Wright faced the predicament head on. It is still a game-time decision whether Washington will play today at Vashon.

"It's frustrating because you've got to sit out on the sideline and you want to be out there, but you've got to get the water bottles and pick up pads," Washington said. "It's hard not being out there playing the sport you like to play."

While Wright and the rest of the coaching staff said playing without Washington would keep them from being at full strength, Washington sees it differently.

When asked what his team loses when he's not on the field, he responded with, "Nothing, because Ryan (Asbury) comes in there and picks up where I left off."

That isn't exactly what someone would expect to hear from an average 15-year-old, but in more ways than not, Washington just isn't average.


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